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In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.~ John 14:2-3 (KJV)
Many years ago, while attending a Bible study discussion, our leader enthusiastically announced, “Let’s have some fun! Read John 14:2-3, and describe what your mansion in heaven will look like.” I listened in amazement as others around me began to describe palatial dwellings crafted of gold, silver, marble, mother of pearl and precious stones. Really? I thought. None of these descriptions sounded warm and inviting, and the enormity of the homes made me shudder. The thought of each of us having a mansion sounded so lonely to me. I didn’t want to live in a huge home in heaven all by myself. I dreaded my turn to share with the group. What would my mansion be like? Maybe an oceanfront home. But wait… I have always liked the mountains, too. Maybe I could have an ocean in the front yard and mountains in the back yard. But wait … I also love beautiful gardens. Where would they fit in? Can a garden grow on the beach? And if I had to live by myself, then maybe I could fill my mansion with puppies to keep me company …. Sigh. This whole discussion seemed materialistic and pointless. And yet, I never forgot it. Did this scripture really refer to what awaited us in heaven? I pondered this discussion, and the scripture that preceded it, in my heart for many years.
As the years passed, I learned several things that began to set my heart at ease. I learned that the word ‘mansion’ in the John 14 scripture referred to a dwelling place, and that an intended message of this teaching of Jesus was that we would always have a place with Christ—that He would never abandon us. All good. But my heart was still searching for a deeper meaning to this scripture that consistently puzzled me.
And then, last week, I hiked into the ruins of an ancient village in Israel with a group of people that I had come to love deeply. As we sat among the crumbling stones of a large dwelling place to listen to our pastor’s teaching, we could make out the foundations of many small chambers and several large common areas. Our pastor told us that we had entered an insula —a family compound—where extended family groups lived. Grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, children and grandchildren, all shared life together as one community.
As I sat there in the quiet echoes of this ancient insula, I looked around at the beloved people sitting on the stones with me. I had known very few of these thirty seven people before this trip, yet now they had become precious family members. Daily, we walked together, broke bread together, worshipped together, prayed with each other and encouraged each other. We had become insula!
Tears formed in my eyes as I looked out at the crumbling foundations before me and imagined how we all might have lived together in an ancient world. And then our pastor told us a story—a story so beautiful it literally broke my heart …
… As a young girl and resident of this ancient insula, there would come a day when I would capture the heart of a young man from a neighboring village insula. In the Hebrew tradition, he would come, kneel before me and offer me a cup. If I took the cup from him and drank from it, I would become his betrothed. My future bridegroom would then return to his family’s insula, where he and his father would build a room. It would not be easy to build this room. The stones were heavy and the work was hard. This room would be constructed with the hands, feet, heart, blood, sweat and tears of my future groom. When this room was completed, he would joyfully return to my insula and take me to the room he had prepared for us.
Suddenly, the words of the John 14:2-3 scripture pierced my heart with breathtaking love. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (ESV) As followers of Christ, our beloved bridegroom has prepared a room for each of us, with His hands, His feet, His heart, His blood, His sweat and His tears. And He welcomes us into HIS insula with eternal joy.
Thank you, dear Jesus, for preparing a room for me. I know it will be perfect.
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